COVID-19 and demand for e-commerce

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COVID-19 has accelerated the uptake of online food shopping.

‘Consumer behaviour and attitudes towards food purchasing changed quickly and dramatically because of the pandemic,’ says Jeewani Fernando, provincial consumer market analyst with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. ‘Despite the large volume of sales during the pandemic, there was a marked decline in multiple weekly grocery trips. These have been replaced by single large shopping trips and an increase in online purchasing.’

The latest Consumer Corner looks at how COVID-19 affected the demand for e-commerce. Fernando says many consumers tried online food shopping for the first time during the pandemic. Sales trends show that consumers have become more comfortable buying grocery and food products online.

Convenience is the main reason for online shopping followed by safety and health and other factors. However, consumer concerns about fees, the quality and selection of perishable items, and an immediate need for the groceries are some of the main challenges.

‘Retailers may consider expanding same-day delivery service or introducing annual subscription plans rather than using one-time delivery fees. They might also increase the availability of curbside pickup to alleviate some of the concerns and to drive more online shopping.’

Pandemic restrictions on restaurant capacity and reluctance among many diners to frequent indoor public places have shifted food service and drinking places to offer more contactless delivery and take-out options, and many have made investments to expand their online sales capabilities. Consumers stayed home and used various platforms to find restaurants and order in meals in 2020.

‘Using e-commerce to purchase food still has strong growth potential in Canada, given the significant growth in both supply and demand during the pandemic in 2020. These industry insights may help Alberta food retailers and food service providers to better manage their food product offerings in the post-pandemic era,’ says Fernando.

Read the latest Consumer Corner on COVID-19 and the demand for e-commerce.